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What is a disability?
A disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of the individual.

  • Major Life Activities: The term "major life activities" refers to normal functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
  • A physical impairment includes any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss limiting one or more of the following bodily systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, skin, endocrine, etc.
  • A mental impairment includes any mental or psychological disorder such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
  • A learning disability is a generic term that refers to a group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities.

What is a reasonable accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a course, program, service, job, activity, or facility that enables a qualified individual with a disability to have an equal opportunity to attain the same level of performance or to enjoy equal benefits and privileges available to an individual without a disability. Some common academic accommodations include extra time on tests, use of peer note takers, use of computers with spell check, and provision of sign language interpreters.

Is this program confidential?
Your medical information provided for registration with the Disability Services Program is kept confidential.  Only the approved accommodation arrangements are discussed with your faculty or administrators.

I believe I have a disability.  How will this affect my application and the admissions process?
Vanderbilt University will make admissions decisions using criteria which do not consider an individual's disability.  Students with disabilities desiring to enroll in any program, service, or activity of Vanderbilt University must be able to meet the minimal standards of the university and the particular school, program, service, or activity to which admission is sought.

I've been accepted at Vanderbilt University, and I have a disability.  What do I have to do to receive accommodations?
If you believe you have a disability and need an accommodation, the first place to contact is the Disability Services Program (DSP) at (615) 322-4705. Students who believe they have a disability have the responsibility of contacting the DSP for an intake interview to assess their needs prior to their semester of enrollment.  All accommodations are reviewed on an individual basis considering the student’s request, documentation, and course curriculum.

Can a student with a learning disability be exempt from a foreign language/math requirement?
There are various requirements throughout the different divisions of the university. Some have a foreign language and/or math requirement. It is possible for students with a learning disability to petition for a waiver of certain requirements. The decision to allow for a waiver is made on a case-by-case basis by the DSP staff and the Dean of the student’s major college.

Is a reduced course load available?
Course loads vary from program to program. However, some students with disabilities elect to take on different course loads depending on their medical needs. These instances are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

What is a note taker?
A note taker is usually another student in class who agrees and is paid to provide copies of lecture notes taken during class. Once approved, the note taker will photocopy their class notes at the Disability Services Program and leave the copy at the office for the student.

Who is responsible for requesting an interpreter?
Students requiring an interpreter for class must make the request to the Disability Services Program (DSP) two weeks prior to the date the interpreter is needed.   The DSP cannot guarantee an interpreter when requests are made less than two weeks before the event.